Actress Christina Applegate has said she is “probably not going to work on-camera again” due to the physical challenges that come with her multiple sclerosis condition.
“I can’t even imagine going to set right now,” Applegate told Vanity Fair last week. “This is a progressive disease. I don’t know if I’m going to get worse. I can do voiceover stuff because I have to support my family and keep my brain working.”
Applegate, who was diagnosed with the disabling disease while filming the final season of the Netflix series Dead to Me in August 2021, told the magazine that her condition makes it so difficult to walk unaided and maintain her balance that it’s scary even to get into the shower.
“You can fall, you can slip, your legs can buckle,” she said. “Especially because I have a glass shower. It’s frightening to me to get in there. And then it was about kind of learning— all of us learning—what I was going to capable of doing.”
Diagnosed During Filming
Multiple sclerosis impacts the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, which make up the body’s central nervous system. The disease disrupts signals to and from the brain, causing unpredictable symptoms that range from pain, fatigue, numbness, memory issues, blindness, or paralysis.
Applegate first experienced toe and foot numbness, which accelerated to the point she could not maintain her balance and would fall over. Eventually, she required a wheelchair on the set, was sleeping constantly, and gained 40 pounds due to inactivity and medications.
“I got diagnosed while we were working,” she told Variety, “and I had to call everybody and be like, “I have multiple sclerosis, guys. Like, what the f–k!” Production was paused on Dead to Me so Applegate could seek treatment, and the cast and crew worked to accommodate her during filming.
Finishing the season was “as hard as you would possibly think it would be,” Applegate said in November 2022. At that time, she said there was “no way” she could star in an acting role again, but was unsure yet whether she could retire from acting altogether.
“It’s about finding what I’m capable of doing,” she told Variety in November. “I’m so new in this right now. It takes time to kind of figure out this disease, and figure out what’s bringing on symptoms. I’m just a newbie to all of this. So I’m trying to figure it out—and I’m also in mourning for the person that I was.”
“Never a Good Day”
By February 2023, Applegate sounded even less optimistic about a return to acting, telling the Los Angeles Times: “Right now, I couldn’t imagine getting up at 5 a.m. and spending 12 to 14 hours on a set. I don’t have that in me at this moment.”
Applegate said she struggles to carry items, can only drive short distances, and while she is able to walk upstairs, she struggles to go back down them. She told Vanity Fair she can’t be around too many people because she is immunocompromised, and too much stimulation of her nervous system creates physical difficulties.
“With the disease of MS, it’s never a good day; you just have little sh–ty days. ... There are just certain things that people take for granted in their lives that I took for granted.”
Applegate is also a breast cancer survivor, having announced in 2008 that she was cancer free following a double mastectomy. As with her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, she learned of her condition while working, this time on the series Samantha Who?
Unlike on Dead to Me, Applegate told Vanity Fair network officials on that show were less accommodating and “not very sympathetic or empathetic human beings, to be honest with you,” which affected her decision to be honest and outspoken when she was diagnosed with MS.
Support From Fellow Stars
Applegate said she has not yet watched the entire final season of Dead to Me because it is too painful, telling the Los Angeles Times: “I don’t like to see myself struggling.” She credited her co-star and close friend Linda Cardellini in particular with helping her get through the final months of shooting.
“I’m probably not going to work on-camera again, but I'm so glad that I went out with someone who is by far the greatest actress I’ve ever worked with in my entire life, if not the greatest human I’ve ever known,” Applegate said.
She also cited support from her friends and fellow actresses who also have multiple sclerosis, including Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Selma Blair. Sigler concealed her MS diagnosis for a decade because she feared it would damage her career, and encouraged Applegate not to make the same mistake.
“She hid it for 10 years and then pushed through and suffered because of it,” Applegate told Vanity Fair. “She was like, “You need to tell them [what you need] now that you’ve let it out of the bag.’”
Colin McEvoy joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had spent 16 years as a journalist, writer, and communications professional. He is the author of two true crime books: Love Me or Else and Fatal Jealousy. He is also an avid film buff, reader, and lover of great stories.